A Rwandan dairy cooperative’s economic engine is quality assurance

Originally published on August 23, 2018.

IAKIB is a bustling place in the morning, at one of its milk collection centers.
Dairy farmers in the Rukomo Region of Northern Rwanda struggled for many years to make ends meet. Even after the IAKIB (Koperative Ihuza Aborozi ba Kijyambere Bafatanyije) cooperative started in 2003, farmers still found it difficult – there was too much production and not enough market access to sell all of it. They could only sell about 200 liters per day. Collection was decentralized. Around 2007, the cooperative had 300 members. Its first milk collection center was built in 2011.

Today the IAKIB milk collection center is bustling as if it were in the center of Kigali – Rwanda’s capital city. Two milk technicians are testing milk for quality and handing out slips to farmers that detail the test results and quantity received. It’s hard to imagine how just 15 years ago, the milk collection center didn’t exist. 
Through proper quality control and testing, IAKIB has become one of the premier cooperatives in Rwanda.
Land O’Lakes International Development has been working with cooperatives in Rwanda since 2008 in a series of agricultural and cooperative development programs with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

At the back of the milk collection center, board members of IAKIB talk and reflect on the last few years of the cooperative.

Through the former RDCP II project, Land O’Lakes International Development provided a co-investment opportunity for milk cooling equipment plus some milk testing kits and supplies to support enhanced quality. Then, technicians were trained on quality testing and farmers were trained on quality assurance. After passing a set of quality standards, IAKIB received a Seal of Quality certification.

“It was with the help of Land O’Lakes that our milk is now the best quality in Rwanda,” says Hakizimana Pierre Celestin, Chairman of IAKIB.

Through the work of the USAID Cooperative Development program, farmers and cooperative leaders have learned about cooperative governance, business strategic planning and financial management over numerous training sessions and exchange visits. Some trainings have focused on gender integration as well as improved communication and have strengthened social trust. Strong leadership has created stronger infrastructure.

“There has been an increase in women membership, in women staff and women leadership,” says Celestin. “They are more involved and make decisions.”

The cooperative now has about 4000 members and takes in around 32,000 liters per day - This brings in revenues reaching to a total of nearly $220,000,000 per month. And, the amount of Rwandan Francs going to member farmers has increased, too.

“There is a huge contribution from this cooperative to farmers and the economy in this area,” says Ntazinda Eugene, MCC Coordinator. “There is more money for livestock feed, for food production, for people’s families. It creates jobs in the district.”

By now, the activity has died down, only an hour later. The milk is on its way to Kigali to be processed into pasteurized milk and yogurts.

Through quality measures being implemented across the supply chain, the interventions have made a lasting impact in Rukomo and in surrounding areas.

“Even farmers in remote areas know of this cooperative,” says Celestin.

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